HS Football: Oak Ridge wins a shootout with Willis

By: JD Hurd II
| Published 11/14/2020

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THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Don’t let the record fool you, Willis is a solid football team. The Wildkats are well equipped to hold their own in a slugfest, and that’s exactly what Friday’s game with Oak Ridge turned into.

The Wildkats and War Eagles traded haymakers for four quarters and 78 total points. Behind 257 yards and three touchdowns from Oak Ridge RB Alton McCaskill, the War Eagles came away with the 44-34 win to improve to 2-1 in District 13-6A.

The Friday night fireworks started early in the first quarter. After Willis took a 3-0 lead on their first possession of the game, Oak Ridge responded with a 75-yard touchdown on their first play from scrimmage. War Eagles QB Steve Smedley linked up on a deep shot with WR Landon Lightsey to take a 6-3 lead (XP no good).

Willis fired right back on the ensuing kickoff. Jamarious Wells returned a line-drive kick for the first of his four touchdowns on the night to hand the lead right back to Willis.

Oak Ridge retook the lead midway through the first quarter on a 26-yard rushing TD by QB Steve Smedley. Smedley also racked up 89 passing yards before leaving the game with an injury in the first half.

Willis and Oak Ridge traded field goals to start the second quarter. Then, with just over nine minutes to go in the half, Wells and Willis QB Steele Bardwell struck up the Wildkats band with a 66-yard TD pass to go back on top, 20-16.

Oak Ridge QB Nick Osborne replaced an injured Smedley on the final drive of the first half. Osborne didn’t miss a beat, connecting with RB Jahron Jonas on a wheel route to put the War Eagles in Willis territory with 15 seconds left. Then, with two seconds left in the half, Osborne went up top to McCaskill right up the seam for a 25-yard TD. The score gave Oak Ridge a 23-20 lead at the half.

Tough running near the goal line by McCaskill gave him his second score of the night and extended the War Eagles’ lead to 10 points. Wells made his third appearance in the Woodforest end zones to cut the Oak Ridge lead back to three with over five minutes to go in the third quarter.

Willis reached into their bag of tricks and called a surprise onside kick on the following kickoff. What could’ve been a massive momentum swing for Willis turned into a break for Oak Ridge. The Wildkats recovered the onside kick, but the play was negated by an offside penalty. The War Eagles took advantage of great field position, leading to a 25-yard TD run by Jahron Jonas.

Needing to stay within striking distance, Willis went right back to the bag of tricks on fourth down. Punter Christian Pavon faked a punt and raced down the right side of the field for a crucial first down. Willis cashed in with another explosive play for a touchdown. Bardwell and Wells connected again for a 50-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 37-34 late in the third quarter. Bardwell finished with 224 passing yards and two TDs. Wells tallied 147 yards to go along with his four scores.

The combo of Jonas and McCaskill proved to be too much as the duo was able to make big plays down the stretch to secure the win. Jonas hauled in a deep ball from Osborne to set up McCaskill’s short TD run that put the game out of reach. Jonas finished with 145 yards of offense in the win.

Oak Ridge (2-1 / 5-2) will return to action next week in a matchup with College Park. Willis (0-3 / 0-7) will return home next week to host Grand Oaks.

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